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Since the very first emergence of an add-to-basket logo, brands and publishers have been evolving their product content to create a more inspirational offering, one that can lead smoothly to a transaction.
However, the road from inspiration to transaction has often been a bumpy one.
Content pushed haphazardly at consumers or produced in a way that is detrimental to the products themselves, results in less than average click-through rates. But more recently, the editorialisation of branded content has meant a more seamless blend of content and commerce.
I read with interest the news of the upcoming launch of a new fashion website, Never Underdressed, from the publisher of magazines Stylist and Shortlist. It describes itself as a “digital magazine” providing rolling news and features on global luxury-fashion and beauty across tablet and mobile.
It claims it will “combine the high-gloss production values of monthly fashion magazines with the hourly speed and immediacy of the web”. So far so good.
However, there has been no mention of commerce integration. While Lucy Alexander, the ex-digital ad director of Elle and Never Underdressed’s publisher says they are “thrilled to bring a range of innovative, immersive new advertising formats that extend across desktop, tablet and mobile,” I would be keen to find out what commerce integration, if any, it will have.
Nowadays launching a content offering without the integration of a transactional layer misses an opportunity to convert audience to customer, and ultimately to that essential trust between brand and consumer.
Of course the relationship between content and commerce is nothing new. For years retailers have known that getting a particular product featured in a glossy magazine has always ensured a sell out line. However now that the web has allowed for the democratization of editorial, brands are now attempting to do this for themselves by reversing the trend.
Rather than putting the product into someone else’s content, they are now investing in their own content, wrapping it around the products in an editorial style.
Fab.com is a fantastic example of the content / commerce blend with a mixture of curated products displayed by category, new arrivals and those liked by Fab members. It offers a European site with a fully integrated Social Commerce Platform with Facebook integration and a live feed of best-selling items.
This approach by Fab.com of course isn’t anything new. Retailers like Net-a-porter pioneered the approach of adding editorialised content to their ecommerce site a number of years ago, allowing them to engage with their audience and generate additional revenue by giving added breadth to the product examples.
Other integrations of commerce include Marks & Spencer with add-to-basket links weaved into video content. Brands that have this additional non-interruptive commerce functionality integrated with video can see basket values increase by an average 30% and repeat visits to their site from customers who have built a loyal and trusted relationship with the brand.
Another driving force on the path from content to commerce is social media, and Pinterest in particular for it’s editorialised style to the design display. The content curated on boards by consumers and brands provides a fantastic referral platform.
The social network represents 17.4% of social media revenue for ecommerce sites, a figure expected to grow to 40% (according to Converto).
Multiplatform optimisation will play an increasingly important role for the ongoing integration of content and ecommerce as brands continue to build meaningful connections with customers across all platforms. As people now access content at any time from anywhere, each brand encounter with a piece of content should potentially lead to a sale.
Fab.com has said much of its unique approach to content and commerce comes from mobile, saying mobile is “synonymous with right now” on its blog.
At the end of 2012 it launched an app on both Android and iOS with 33% of the companies daily visits and sales handled by the apps.
Jason Goldberg, one of the founders and chief executives of Fab said:
There’s too much distraction on the Web, multiple browsers and tabs that take away from your focus. The mobile experience captures your full attention. At some point, we think it’ll be 50%.
Mobile shopping has already risen by 55% compared to a year ago, with an item purchased on eBay every second via smartphone or tablet. Thanks to 4G it is estimated that the amount spent via mobile will now rise a further 115% in the next 12 months, adding £1.8 billion to the UK economy.
The web has become one large, evolving and, most importantly, portable marketplace. This mix of content and commerce is much more suited to today’s Generation C, more attuned to browsing and snacking on content.
Brands must navigate this mix of inspiration and transactional content to deliver a new retail experience and consider their role as editors and curators carefully.